Last November, I wrote about ways on influencing behavior in my statistics class, and issued a challenge to the esteemed Paul Hebert to respond. Being the mensch that Paul is, he responded with a series of posts that you can read about here and here. I took Paul's suggestions to heart and not only raised the grading scale, but also asked students about their grade expectations and how they were going to achieve it. The grading scale was published in the syllabus, and a short survey was to be completed and submitted within the first two weeks of class asking the following:
1. What specific grade is your goal for the class?
2. List 3 action steps you will take to achieve that grade
3. At what time and location will you study and work on statistics homework? Be as specific as possible.
We are in the second week of the semester, and I repeated the above exercise with my 2 sections of statistics class. As I pored over the surveys I received I decided to look back and see how students met their expectations from the previous semester.
In section A:
11 students stated their specific grade goal was an "A" (4.0)
5 students stated "A or AB" (which I counted as 3.75, though we do not offer an A/AB grade)
13 students stated "AB" (3.5)
2 students stated "AB or B" (3.25)
3 students stated "B" (3.0)
none listed a grade below a "B"
The average expected grade was thus a 3.63
Did students in this section meet or exceed their goal?
3 exceeded their grade expectations
4 met their grade expectations
27 fell below their grade expectations (with 17 receiving a full grade or more below their expectations)
The average grade received was a 2.60
What about section B?
18 students set their goal as an "A"
11 students stated a goal of "AB"
2 students stated a goal of "AB or B"
3 students stated a goal of "B"
Once again, no student listed a grade below a "B"
The average expected grade was 3.71
Once again, did students in this section meet or exceed their goal?
0 students exceeded expectation
12 met expectations
22 fell below expectations (with 13 receiving a full grade or more below their expectations)
The average grade received was a 2.91
What do I glean from this info?
1. Students have really high expectations. In a course such as statistics, where students aren't exactly beating down the door trying to get into a section, I would have thought grade expectations would have been a bit tempered.
2. Are goals and expectations the same? Is the student goal the same as what they expect to receive? Should I have also included a question about what grade they expect to receive?
3. Was an opportunity missed? Like most schools, we don't publish average grades given (let along performance evaluations) of a professor. Students rely on the grapevine to tell them about the quality and difficulty of a class. While I publish and talk about the impact of missing class and completing homework on grades, I have never published the overall average grade of the class. Would having that information have led to students lowering their expectations?
As mentioned, students were once again required to state their grade expectations for the semester. What is the breakdown across the two sections?
30 stated their goal was an "A"
9 stated their goal was an "A or AB"
12 stated their goal was "AB"
3 stated their goal was a "B"
1 stated his/her goal was a "C"
In sum, 75% expected to earn an AB or better, with the average grade expected a 3.75.
If this semester was anything like the last, many are in for a rude awakening.